cover image William and the Night Train

William and the Night Train

Mij Kelly. Farrar Straus Giroux, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-374-38437-1

A British team uses a train ride as a metaphor to describe the transition from waking to sleeping in this luxurious picture book. Despite the encouragement of the other passengers--described in a locomotive rhythm (""teachers and jugglers, zookeepers, shopkeepers, writers and fighters, with babies in bundles and piglets in baskets"")--""wide-awake William"" shows no inclination to drift off. In Jay's (Picture This...) soothing illustrations, bathed in muted earth tones of soft terra cottas and moss greens, William and the other children create mild chaos. The hero runs from the freight car (where circus animals slumber) to the sleeping car (in which feathers fall like snowflakes from the children's pillow fight) to the caboose, until finally his mother cuddles him close and he falls asleep. Kelly's poetic text unspools in a seamless strand, twining scrumptious rhymes (the train's engine ""filling the world with billows of steam,/ soft see-through clouds that turn into dreams"") with nimble wordplay (William ""squirms like a worm""; the train goes ""lickety-split, helter-skelter, quick as a streak""). Jay exploits the train metaphor fully, including an engineer in pajamas and nightcap, a recurring sheep motif and a spread of the cars depicted as beds laid end to end, with the train's contents laid out horizontally. Book a ticket for this fanciful ride to dreamland. Ages 3-6. (Mar.)